a07 What is the Core of Agile Methods?

Agile methods give people a chance to do well. Agile methods are so successful because they are aligned to the inseparability of emotions, intuition and cognition. They thus correspond to the process of how people decide, feel, think and act.

Clarity points the way to the core

The question of what makes agile methods successful requires recognizing the core of agile methods. In the excited discussion about agile principles, attitudes, agile mindsets and agility, what constitutes agile methods is blurred.

The view is further obscured by contributions from the advocates of classical project methods that enrich them with agile themes. They pick out metrics like velocity or the burndown chart. Or they integrate ceremonies such as daily stand up or retrospective. Furthermore, agile demands are formulated: there must be a mission with a supportive environment or teams must be equipped with competencies.

The success of agile methods creates agile projects and agile project methods and project management in the meantime, which is a contradiction in terms. Of course, it is right and proper to enrich the classical project methods to compensate their weaknesses. But they do not become agile methods and projects remain projects, they do not become agile projects.


Projects are a contradiction to agile methods

In a project, the requirements are known at the beginning, from which a project plan with a sequential development process is derived. The project result with budget, schedule and necessary resources are known at the beginning of the project.

Simply put, a traditional management receives a known scope of delivery at a known price. This is exactly what agile methods cannot and do not want.

Corporate reality has shown that the classic project method is no longer sufficient because more than two thirds of projects fail to deliver on this promise.

  • Roland Berger 2015: 90% of major projects exceed budget and schedule by more than 55%.
  • Chaos Report Standish Group 2018: The long-term report for the years 1994 to 2015 showed only 29% successful projects, exactly the figure for 2015.

The agile methods have developed to offer solutions for the moderate project success of classic project methods.

Figure01: Classic Project Methods contradicts agile Methods like Scrum


What makes agile methods special?

The belief in a perfect plan is replaced with agile methods like Scrum by quick feedback on the impact of decisions, changes and experiences. A compulsive final goal achievement is abandoned and replaced by a consistent continuous development and improvement.


What is the core of agile methods?

Agile methods like Scrum are an extremely disciplined approach to successfully implement projects.

The core of any agile method is time-boxing and single-tasking in self-organized teams.

  • Time-Boxing – Smallest possible units (stories) are processed in fixed time units (sprints) of one to four weeks. Time-Boxing turns classic project procedures upside down. Here, known functionalities are implemented in phases of varying length, a priori planned and then realized.
  • Single-Tasking – means that team members can work on a topic as undisturbed as possible.
  • Small self-organized teams – working together at eye level and combining the necessary competencies in the team (cross-functional teams).


What makes agile methods so successful?

The success of agile methods is directly derived from the three core topics:

  • Time-Boxing
  • Iterative procedure
  • Decisions: Quality, Prioritization, Commitments
  • Single tasking
  • Small self-organized teams
  • Agile mindset

Iterative approach is a consistent consequence of time-boxing, which as an obvious feature of agile methods is diametrically opposed to classical project methods. It allows you to react appropriately to changes and ensures success. This ensures that projects reach their goals and that the customer gets what he needs as a result. The iterative approach is a characteristic of the inseparability of emotions, intuition and cognition, which is why it corresponds to human thinking and behaviour.

Figure02: Iterative approach in thought cycles

Read more about “What makes agile methods so successful” in the next blog.

Agile methods are not a contradiction to classical project procedures

As explained above, the classic project approach is a contradiction to the agile methods. Conversely, the agile methods use the classic approach. Small self-organized teams work as cross-functional teams with the classic phases design, implementation, quality assurance, release and operations. The traditional methods have already recognized this success factor and want to integrate it with DevOps initiatives.


The core of agile methods

Once the core of the agile methods with time-boxing, single-tasking and small self-organized tasks has been identified, they can be successfully introduced with decision-making processes, stabilized and their performance significantly improved.

If the implicit decisions are integrated by decision processes explicitly aligned to the inseparability of emotions, intuition and cognition, the introduction of agile methods succeeds and consequently the performance increases from practical experience by a factor of 2.

The fragile point of group dynamics, which is avoided through the work in small teams, can be solved solidly through decision-making processes. Decisions, quality, delegation and prioritization are then reliably produced in decision-making processes. They ensure that the participants develop the agile mindset when they experience how ceremonies succeed and artefacts are led to an appropriate quality. The integration of secure decision-making processes is the most important guarantor for agile methods to unfold their valuable potential.

Agile methods thus achieve better results. This achieves agility that equips companies with the flexibility to act in the dynamics of today’s globalized world and respond to disruptive changes.

The Decision-Making Processes for Agile Methods – www.-k-i-e.com

Only by embedding agile methods in a functional decision management system can the real potential be exploited. Decision processes would equip the agile methods with processes that reliably produce the results.

In Sprint Planning, the Development Team, the Scrum Master and the Product Owner determine which stories are implemented in the Sprint. The following decision-making processes are required for this: Rating, individual decision-making, insure the quality, prioritization, commitment and resource question. In advance, the product owner must have prioritized the stories (prioritization process) and described them with appropriate quality (quality process).

Ceremonies such as Daily Stand-up, Sprint Review, Retrospective and Refinement also require decision-making processes to ensure that good results are achieved and to prevent excessive group dynamics. Traditional decision-making processes are only suitable for this purpose to a limited extent.

K-i-E Scale – A unsiversal Rating System

The basis of all ceremonies for safe and rapid decisions is a standardized and accepted evaluation. This applies to individual and especially team decisions.

The K-i-E scale allows a fast and precise evaluation as a prerequisite for a clear decision. Its flexibility makes it a universal, accepted and standardized rating system for all ceremonies and decision-making processes.

The internal structure of the K-i-E scale is suitable for precisely mapping the little differentiated impulse from intuition. This characteristic forms the congenial bridge to combine intuition and cognition into a single decision strategy. Its transparency opens the way for using group competence.

The K-i-E Intuition – Consciously Using the Intelligence of Intuition

The natural intuition that every human being has, becomes the K-i-E Intuition, when it is expressed in a standardized and selective way through the K-i-E scale. With the K-i-E Intuition, the expert knowledge of all can be accessed in a flash, in order to make a first coherent individual decision for all ceremonies and artefacts. The K-i-E Intuition is the ingenious basis for lightning-fast communication without words in small and large teams.

K-i-E Resource Question – The integrative Way to a Solution

The resource question triggers a clear procedure that activates the necessary actions to make success possible. It is therefore a basic building block for all ceremonies and artefacts. The parties involved are obliged to make their contribution to a solution. Instead of criticizing, illuminating the problem or investigating the causes, a retrospective view is avoided.

Instead, competence is stringently demanded, and it quickly becomes apparent what and how much is necessary for success.

This shortens discussions about factors. Useful actions are worked out and as an accompanying effect it becomes visible how supportive someone behaves.

K-i-E Decision Strategy – Safe Decision-Making

With the individual decision strategy, agile team members as well as Scrum Master and Product Owner decide quickly and reliably. The distorting influence of the emotional system is reduced and the conscious use of intuition is integrated. Everyone knows – in the traditional and agile world – which deficiencies individual decisions have. For this reason, further decision-making processes are absolutely necessary for Scrum to succeed in its tasks and to integrate group competence.

Quality Process – Jointly Accepted Quality for all Artefacts

All artefacts such as the stories in the product as well as in the sprint backlog are created with appropriate resources and in appropriate quality. The quality is already produced in early phases, which limits later problems and efforts.

The quality process creates a self-organized process that enables those involved in the process to produce quality in a self-determined manner.

Quality problems in the backlog create the biggest problems, both in classical and agile methods. People get with the K-i-E Quality Process a chance to do it well.

The Motivation Triangle – Goals will be achieved

Goals will be achieved, conflicts will be resolved and projects become successful if the appropriate skills are developed, internal or external permission is given and the will of those involved is sufficiently present.

The K-i-E motivation triangle is a practice-oriented application of the K-i-E scale. It is a transparent tool with which candidates can be assessed in a comprehensible way.
With its help it can be derived how great the chances for the success of a project will be.

Commitment Process for Jointly Supported Decisions

Identification and loyalty to the goal are the essential success factors for all ceremonies par excellence. The commitment process involves all participants 100%. The process forces all participants to express themselves and to take an evaluable standpoint. Diverging points of view become visible right at the beginning and are brought to a common constructive solution through the supportive collaboration of all.

Obstacles, risks and hidden conflicts are identified in early phases. In later project phases they would cause cost increases and delays after considerable investments have already been made. This situation is counteracted even before the start of a project and the actions to ensure success are worked out jointly. The effect in the subsequent implementation is central to success.

Prioritization Process – Common Selection and Order of Topics

With the prioritization process, the core question – what is implemented in the sprint and what is not done – is solved together with the Development Team, the Scrum Master and the Product Owner. The topics to be worked on are then put in order by the Development Team.

For each sprint, various stories compete for the limited resources of time, budget, competencies, focus and implementation capacity. The prioritization process achieves the goal of finding a common set of requirements within a given timeframe.

Briefing Process for a successful Delegation – to get what you want

The delegation process ensures that you get what you need from internal and external teams to produce a good overall result. Prerequisites for the delegation process: a standardized evaluation with the K-i-E scale, the resource question, the quality, commitment and prioritization process and the motivation triangle.

The New Decision-Making Culture – The Book

The K-i-E theory of the inseparability of emotions, intuition and cognition provides the scientific basis for the agile methods and decision-making processes and thus places them on a solid foundation.

The decision-making processes for overcoming entrepreneurial challenges are described in practical terms for agile transformation in my book “Die neue Entscheidungskultur”, Hanser Verlag 2018.
More on my Homepage –  www.k-i-e.com

The New Decision-Making Culture – The Seminar (2 days)

Produce decisions instead of deciding. The inseparability of emotions, intuition and cognition is explained in a practical way. Practice-proven tools for 100% participation.

Next Seminar: Friday 25th and Saturday 26th January 2019

Location: Frankfurt am Main

The emotional system is the origin and end of all thinking. New thinking with conscious emotional logic expands human and artificial intelligence.

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Blog Series – How Agile Change succeeds



  • The jointly supported decision as a superior form of decision-making
  • Embedding of agile methods in a functional decision management system
  • Decision-Making processes create a new decision-making culture
  • Calibrated emotional loops
  • Decision processes solve the leadership dilemma
  • The lack of support is homemade
  • The entrepreneurial reality
  • Agile change succeeds with decision management